Author Archives: Admin

Sponsorship by Aquapac

British manufacturer of waterproof cases and bags, Aquapac, has continued to support the team by providing individual members – who have to pay for their own kit – with a substantial discount, as well as providing the team with a range of cases for central equipment.

It’s small-scale sponsorship deals like this that allow the charity to continue to be operational. We are not always on the lookout for large sponsors, but donations of individual pieces of kit, or discounts for members all add up to letting us be sustainable.

Thanks Aquapac!

supported-by-aquapac-badge-200px

West Mercia Search & Rescue

Pokemon Go – Tips for staying safe

Two Search & Rescue charities are today issuing joint advice to players of Pokemon Go to help reduce risks outdoors.

pokemongoSurrey Search & Rescue, and West Mercia Search & Rescue are both professional teams of missing-person search and flood-rescue specialists who volunteer their time to help those in danger. Both teams are members of the Lowland Rescue network, and DEFRA Flood Rescue Assets,o on-call to respond to national flooding incidents.

Pokemon Go is a new smartphone-based game which used augmented reality – displaying graphics on top of what the camera phone sees – in order to help players catch Pokemon characters. The game requires users to explore the real world, and venture in to areas which they may not be familiar with.

Pokemon Go looks set to be the most popular smartphone game of all time, but the physical interaction with new environments and people can bring some risks.

The Rescue teams are offering some simple points of advice for users to follow:

– If you are venturing off-road or away from civilisation, always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.

– Don’t rely on having mobile phone reception in woodland or hilly landscapes. The deep woods of Surrey and the remote hills of Shropshire are notorious for a lack of mobile reception.

– Take a small pack with a warm or waterproof jacket and a torch. Also consider a waterproof phone case and phone battery booster.

– Stay well away from water. The game may require you to catch water-borne Pokemon but don’t approach the edge of rivers or lakes where the bank could be slippery and difficult to get out of if you fall in. Open water is still very cold and even a good swimmer can be exhausted in cold water within seconds.

– Don’t venture on to private land. Stick to public rights of way only.

– Be very careful around real farm animals, respect their distance and close any gate you have to open.

– If you can, go out in pairs or groups to stay safe.

– And of course, don’t play and drive

 

An insight in to a search

Following on from yesterday’s search success, we thought it would be fitting to offer an insight into how the team operates, and why we perform so well as a team in any given operation.

IMG-20160712-WA0000

Each team member is trained in a variety of skills from day one, with the basic level of competency to become operational being that of the Search Technician. Upon joining the team as a probationary member, a volunteer will attend a number of specialist training sessions, covering Navigation, First Aid, Basic Life Support, Patient Evacuation, Communications, Search Techniques, Fitness and an overview of operations. Following the initial training the volunteer will then attend a two day course for further training and assessment, and upon successful completion will gain the qualification of Search Technician, and with one final team assessment, an operational member of the team who can attend callouts. Alongside the training sessions, all of our team members assist with fund raising activities, which range from bucket collections at venues throughout Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, open days, event support and community fund raisers.

It’s worth noting that during this initial training period (and indeed, throughout their time as a search volunteer), our probationary members will be paying for their own fuel costs and personal equipment, as well as for their assessment course. The team covers training costs such as fuel for WMSAR vehicles, venues and any team kit.

Once a member is qualified as a Search Technician, there are many further training courses available, and many members specialise in particular areas whilst keeping up to date with their base competencies – we have our SRTs (Swift Water & Flood Rescue Technician) and FRBOs (Flood Rescue Boat Operator) who man our search boats and are qualified to work in difficult areas involving water; our Quad Bike Team who are specially trained to utilise Quads as a search tool, covering far more ground in a shorter space of time than a foot team can; our first aiders – while all members are trained to a basic level of first aid, we also have advanced courses and highly experienced members who can offer a far greater knowledge and expertise in casualty care; our Team Leaders – experienced search professionals who ensure their team searches a given area efficiently and effectively. Each volunteer brings valuable skills to the team and allows us to develop our overall skill set. We operate under the mantra of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) to ensure we can offer the highest level of care to the vulnerable mission people we search for, and to operate in an efficient and professional way that aids our relationship with West Mercia Police, and the local Fire & Rescue Services.

So, on to the search. We can be called out at any time of day or night, 365 days a year – a callout will come from the Police or Fire Services requesting our attendance, and our Search Operations Team spring into action, notifying team members of the search location. Members respond to advise on their availability and as a team, we aim to get all the necessary vehicles and equipment to the Search Location as quickly as possible.

At the RV (Rendezvous), the Incident Command Unit (ICU) is set up, and aerial mast erected to allow for team communication via VHF. Our search planners work with the POLSA (Police Search Advisor) to establish the search area and team taskings, dividing the available members into units for deployment. Each unit will comprise of a Team Leader and in most cases two Search Technicians, and once briefed, will move to their target area and begin searching, maintaining communication with the ICU/Search Planner advising of any useful information such as terrain and points of interest. Other tools will also be deployed if suitable for the given search areas, such as the Quad Team.

Throughout the period of the search, unites will complete their search areas and return to the RV for debriefing and reassignment to a new area, as well as much needed refreshment and welfare breaks. The Search Planners work to tried and tested methods and statistics to place each unit to cover as much of the search area as possible efficiently, and throughout the search will respond to new information from the ground units and from the POLSA, updating the search units as required.

The best result is of course the successful find of our missing person… at worst, we can confidently advise The Police or Fire Service that we have covered a given search area allowing them to focus on other areas.

In addition to all of the training and exercises, we are focused on research into how effective different search methods are – in fact it was our specific research into the use of Quad Bikes that has brought us a number of successful outcomes to searches. Pitted against foot searchers and mountain bikes, the quads proved most effective over a set distance, and so plans were put in place to utilise them more on live searches, and they are now a valuable asset to the team.

We continue to look into other areas for future development, including the use of air scenting dogs, mountain bikes and many more interesting avenues.

NONE of this would be possible without your help. We rely on donations to cover our costs – currently £1600 a month (unit rent, fuel, equipment maintenance etc) and so please, if you’ve enjoyed this article, consider donating via our website wmsar.org.uk/donate/

Supporter Sticker

supporter

We’ve just ordered a limited run of 150 supporter’s stickers – grab them while you can.

They’re 10cm x 10cm (4in x 4in) and static-cling, which means they haven’t got any glue on them to leave a sticky residue.

They’re perfect for your car, shop, office or home to show your support for your local rescue charity.

They’re just £2 each, with 70p postage per order.

Buy Now

 

Tips for sticker application:

Make sure your glass is clean and not dusty.

If your sticker doesn’t adhere easily, wet it, put it on the glass and then gently squeeze the water out from under it using a credit card or squeegee.

Some car windscreens have anti-static coatings – use the water technique for these!

 

Granville Bookkeeping supports WMSAR

We recently did a talk to the Federation of Small Businesses in Shropshire, about the ways that small businesses could help small charities with donations of time and skills, rather than with money.

Kim-250Kim Kelly of Granville Bookkeeping stepped forward and offered the charity her services in managing our day-to-day finances and keeping or records compliant with charity law.

This is a huge weight off the shoulders of our Treasurer – who is also an operational team member – and frees up his time to devote to training and callouts.

Our massive thanks to Kim for her support, which will make a big difference to the charity.

As she says in her own words: “I love organising. I love targeting paperwork clutter: nothing makes me happier than to create order out of chaos. I tell businesses that they needn’t feel awkward – it’s a pure joy for me to transform all that stray paperwork into a workable system”. 

Kim is now a vital supporter of the charity, and a superb example of how, if you have a little time to give, you can apply your existing skills to help a charity in need.

logo2

www.granvillebookkeeping.co.uk

 

The postcode lottery of Rescue funding in the UK

We read an excellent article in the Guardian about the struggles facing Independent Lifeboat teams across the UK which have to compete with the behemoth that is the RNLI – a £190,000,000 per year favourite of the British public’s donations that leaves relatively little for other lifeboat teams in terms of recognition and fundraising opportunity.

Read the Guardian article here

To be clear, this article is in no way bashing the excellent work of any of our partner agencies in UK Search & Rescue, but merely serves to highlight an interesting disparity that exists not just around the coast, but also inland.

We recently wrote to the Prime Minister, asking for consideration of an annual grant to help ALL of the UK’s official inland rescue teams with the overheads of their very existence.

Our own overheads are £1700 a month, which covers rent (£600), insurance (£650), vehicle tax, maintenance, fuel and our online callout system. We have to raise that money every single month just to keep the status quo, and on top of that we have to raise extra to fund any new equipment, training and the associated costs of actually rescuing people.

We asked for £10,000 per team to keep the wolf from the door because fundraising is becoming harder in the face of enormous charities monopolising public donations and we are fighting to stay sustainable.small-charity-big-difference

But disappointingly, the answer which came back from the Department for Transport – one of the departments of Government which govern UK Search & Rescue – included this:

For the last five years, the DfT has managed a grant regime for three UK Mountain Rescue organisations: the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland; Mountain Rescue England & Wales; and Mountain Rescue Northern Ireland. For the first four years of the scheme, a total of £200,000 was made available every year with proportional allocations being made to each area based on the number of teams affiliated to each of the three bodies. In the 2015-16 financial year £250,000 was made available. (The grants ended in 2016)

And there’s the rub: We’re not a Mountain Rescue team, we’re a Lowland Rescue team and national flood-rescue asset. So we, and the 34 other Lowland Rescue teams from Kent up to Cheshire, didn’t see a penny of that million pounds. And that’s made life more difficult for us to continue.

What’s the difference between Mountain Rescue and Lowland Rescue? Well, actually it’s more about history than the division between different landscapes. There are Mountain Rescue teams where there are no mountains, and there are Lowland Rescue teams with geographies that require exactly the same training as MRTs (think about the steeper sections of the Long Mynd on our patch). It comes down to governing bodies and the reason why each exists.

In VERY broad strokes for the layman (recognising that there is a huge crossover and blurred lines between the two groups), Mountain Rescue are off-road ambulances for people who realise they are in danger and grew out of that need. Lowland Rescue are searchers for people who don’t realise they are in danger (usually because of mental health issues or dementia) and grew out of that need. But on top of those core roles, both agencies train at a team level to perform specialist roles for their areas (flood rescue, river rescue, cliff rescue, ambulance support, lifeboats etc.)

Young teams in less touristy areas like ours often lose out to the older, more established rescue teams in terms of publicity. We have had magazines refuse to print stories about our work because “our readers will want to see more extreme landscapes” and we’re disadvantaged by the fact that most of the time we can’t publicise who we are helping because they’re vulnerable.

And in terms of a national picture, there is no gentlemen’s agreement between the various search and rescue bodies to observe fundraising boundaries. We’re all fighting over the same small pocket of public donations and corporate sponsorship, local grants and support.

Some teams are lucky enough to have a huge tourist presence or prominent feature – and can rake in hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations from communities and visitors to that area, whilst a neighbouring team or the home team where those same visitors live can be forced to survive on a fraction of that amount if their area is less well visited.

And it’s not uncommon for the national agencies to fundraise or publicise in the heartland of another – RNLI were fundraising at an event in Shrewsbury last week for example – a distance of 55 miles from their nearest station and the coast.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, the powers that be at a national level will continue to make efforts to work together fairly. But we’re a long way off that, and for the foreseeable future we predict that there’ll be some disparity between funding. The big charities are unlikely to release funds to the smaller ones, and the struggle will continue. And to our minds that is ultimately unfair to the people we serve – those people in need of help.

So the best thing for us to do is to encourage you to pass on the message to support locally. If you’re interested in the lifesaving work of search and rescue (on sea or land) then do a little search for your nearest group and donate directly to them rather than the national bodies.

If you’re local to us in Shropshire, Herefordshire or Worcestershire, then we would very much appreciate you considering to support us. Otherwise, see below for lists of local teams.

Lowland Rescue Teams (England and NI)

Mountain Rescue Teams (England & Wales)

Mountain Rescue Teams (Scotland)

Independent Lifeboats

Northern Ireland

 

Why small business should consider small charities

This post was triggered by a talk we did to the Federation of Small Businesses in Telford this week. We prepared the usual talk about what we do, but as we sat in the room hearing from every attendee what their business was during introductions, we were struck by the fact that small business and small charities share a number of common goals which can complement each other. This post starts to explore that potential.

Both are created from passion

Most people start a small business to do something they enjoy, and most people volunteer for a small charity because of that same passion. And that’s something that’s not always quite so true in larger companies or where a charity has paid employees.

There’s a lot of leverage

Small charities are desperate to raise awareness, as are small businesses. And there’s a huge amount of skills-bartering that can be done by both to help mutual aid. The people who started a charity probably weren’t expecting to have to do auditable accounts, risk assessments, press releases, publicity drives and the never-ceasing fight for fundraising. And small business owners who are savvy can leverage the goodwill surrounding charities by donating their skills – perhaps not even for a significant portion of time – in return for publicity which is potentially WAY beyond what they’d be able to get from a large charity.

Be a big fish in a small pond

Small businesses helping small charities will be important to that charity, and the relationship valued at a level way beyond that of much larger charities. A donation of a few hours’ skilled work on something a charity needs (accounts, mentoring, photography, marketing… you name it) can make a fundamental difference for a small charity and make your small business a real partner for them.

small-charity-big-difference

A small business donating, or organising a sponsored event for a big charity may get a thank-you letter, a certificate, or possibly social-media recognition, but with them attracting donations in their tens-of-thousands, it is unlikely that a large charity will be able to offer any form of ongoing PR back to the small business.

Make a significant difference

Will your donation (be it skills or monetary) be a ripple in the ocean, or a big splash in a small pond? And will it have an effect on your local area? Most small businesses depend on their local area for customer bases, so to contribute back to that area is likely to be seen in great favour by potential customers… it may even help with local recognition if you leverage your own PR opportunities.

Don’t be afraid to ask for something in return

A small charity has limited resources, so payment is often out of the question. But, small charities usually have devoted members and followers, and can often be a presence in public that your company will never achieve. Any reasonable small charity will consider sponsorship packages on their website, their social media and perhaps even on equipment which will be seen by the public. And from the business’ point of view, it is never unreasonable to ask for photos, testimonials and credits.

But don’t ask for too much time

It’s a universal truth that most charity volunteers are very time-poor. Many will be fitting charity work around day jobs, families and ‘real-life’, so make sure that any proposition you make to a charity for leverage has as little demand on their time as possible. In fact, if you can do the PR work yourself and get them to sign it off, you retain control of the message that you want your potential customers to see. Just make sure it’s the right message for the charity too, because they will live and die by that message.

How to approach a charity

Be direct. And be patient. Don’t expect an immediate response, and don’t always expect your contact to get to the right person in the first place. Charity members come and go, roles change, and for anyone operating on a zero-budget for admin, IT, etc. it can be a struggle to stay on top of contacts. The best approach is to just ASK what the best approach is, so you’ll be put in touch with the best person to answer.
For us, email enquiry@wmsar.org.uk

Oh, and of course, it’s enormously rewarding

You started your business to do what you like doing. And the feeling of being able to do something you enjoy whilst making a real difference to others is enough to give anyone a warm glow and a good night’s sleep.

UK’s first Search Ferret goes operational

WMSAR today announces the first operational deployment for Toby, a 4 year old ferret who has been trained to international search standards by handler, Terry Bell.
toby-ferret-sar

Terry is an ex-Police Dog Handler who retired to North Shropshire in 2012 and has been volunteering with WMSAR’s animal search team since.

He started investigating the possibility of training up a ferret for rural search work after reading about successful tests using rats for search work in disasters since 2004.

A bond was struck between Terry and Toby – who he adopted from Whitchurch Ferret Rescue in November 2014 after the animal was captured raiding the rubbish bins behind a restaurant – and convinced the Trustees of WMSAR to invest in the training and development of the pair since.

The first deployment for Terry and Toby was yesterday, in the search for a 72 year old lady missing from her home in the Shropshire Hills with West Mercia Police.

Rodent SAR Wyoming training programme

Rodent SAR Wyoming training programme

This was a perfect opportunity to demonstrate and record the progress of the animal, whose ability to discriminate scents and follow trails is on a par with that of a dog, but whose training programme is significantly less time consuming. Terry was able to develop this training on a 2-week course with Rodent SAR Wyoming, which was subsidised by National Lottery funding.

Spokesperson for West Mercia Police’s Search Team, Sgt Kate Pole, shared her thoughts “It’s not often we get to try a genuinely new approach to finding vulnerable people, and we are open to new techniques if they don’t impede the investigation in any way. We trust WMSAR to offer a certified search service, and to see the pair in action searching field boundaries was very interesting”.

The search for the missing lady is ongoing, using traditional resources including WMSAR’s foot and quad teams, and the Police helicopter.

For more information on the work of Search Ferrets, see www.wmsar.org.uk/ferrets

ferret-on-red-lead_0

Hereford Cathedral Schools sponsors a new boat

We were contacted by Hereford Cathedral School a few months ago after an appeal for help with our equipment, and as a local life-saving charity we had caught the eye of their pupil-led charitable giving team.

We are delighted to announce that the school has wholly funded a brand-new Inflatable Rescue Boat to add to our fleet.

hereford-cathedral-school

This is fantastic news because it increases our capability to deal with floods and missing-person searches on the water, and the new boat has in fact been used twice in Hereford even before its official launch today.

We paid a visit to the school assembly this morning and met some of the pupils and staff who helped make this amazing donation possible – sharing with the whole school the story of who we are and why we are necessary.

This truly is a donation which will keep on giving because, unlike the Rescue Boats purchased from Government grants, this one can be used by the team for safety-boat and fundraising exercises. And it seems to be the case that if we fundraise with a boat present, we get a little bit more in the way of donations.

We were interviewed on BBC Hereford & Worcester Radio’s Breakfast show today – which you can hear again here. (2 hours, 25mins in to the show)

You can read more information about this amazing school, here:
http://www.herefordcs.com/

https://twitter.com/Herefordcs1

Quad bike study makes the news

We are trailling the use of quad bikes for missing person search, in what is believed to be the first scientific study of its type in the UK.

We are working with Kingston University to study how, and when, quad-bikes can be used to increase the chances of finding a missing person alive and well.

quads

The work is being funded by our members personally (not charity funds) in the hope that we can develop a set of guidelines for other teams across the world to use as a basis for their own quad bike teams.

The study is still in progress, but you can read more here.

« Older Entries